Currie Cup leaders aiming to avoid Blue Bulls

Western Province and the Sharks will know exactly what is required to avoid facing the defending champions in the play-offs when they run out on Saturday in one of the most intriguing coastal battles this year.

By the time the match in Cape Town gets underway, the Blue Bulls will already have completed their “double-brandy and coke derby” against Griquas in Kimberley.

This will leave the final say on what the log standings will look like in the hands of the two most dominant teams in this year’s Currie Cup.

The Western Cape sides last featured in the final back in 2001 and are more than likely to find themselves in a position where they will have to beat the men from Durban if they are to have the advantage of playing the semifinal at home.

Should they slip-up, the Blue Bulls or the Cheetahs — who are up against the Leopards on Friday — could overtake them in the final round-robin stage of the competition.

This could leave Province fighting for survival in the Shark tank next week.

The men in hooped jerseys had hoped that their opponents would send a weakened side, as they are already assured of finishing top of the log standings.

Sharks coach John Plumtree has made a number of changes to his team which may upset their rhythm, but the combinations can hardly be viewed as sub-par.

In bringing back all the Springbok players at his disposal, Plumtree may be revealing his recipe to give the Sharks a better chance at winning the trophy.

However, it will be interesting to see whether his backline experiments will pay off.

Patrick Lambie will start where he did for the national under-20 side this year — at his preferred fullback position — with the flyhalf slot to be filled by Andre Pretorius.

Province coach Allister Coetzee has also re-shuffled his backline and, somewhat surprisingly, has opted to play Springbok centre Jean de Villiers on the wing.

This positional switch was unsuccessful under Bok coach Peter de Villiers during away leg of the Tri-Nations.

There was speculation this week that De Jong would start off the bench, with Jaque Fourie and Jean De Villiers playing in the positions where they have been a formidable force for the national side.

As a result, regular wing Gio Aplon has been moved to fullback, with Conrad Jantjes dropping to the bench.

The selection of Ricky January ahead of an in-form Dewaldt Duvenhage at scrumhalf could prove to be the downfall of Western Province.

Duvenhage has played a central role in getting his team over the advantage line this season and has combined well with flyhalf Willem de Waal.

One of the key battles Province will have is at the scrums, where they will be up against an all-Springbok frontrow in Tendai Mtawarira joined by the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie.

Another telling difference between the two sides is on the bench, where the Sharks have Craig Burden and Keegan Daniel, who are both capable of turning a match on its head.

Kick-off is at 5pm.

* The Blue Bulls match against the Griquas was dubbed the “double-brandy and coke derby” after a Griquas supporter emptied his drink on a match-official last year following a controversial decision they believe cost then the game.

This year, the men from Kimberley will be seeking revenge against the Blue Bulls for being denied a place in the play-offs last year.

With the Springboks away on national duty in 2009, Griquas were in control of proceedings until two yellow-cards in the closing stages of the match sealed their fate.

Griquas are going to have to play out of their skins if they want to win, though, because this year the Bulls have a full complement of Springboks in their squad.

Griquas coach Dawie Theron will be hoping for two things, that: the return of the Springboks disrupts the visiting side’s rhythm; and wing Bjorn Basson b

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